Jared Huffman is generally a good Assemblyman. I mean, he’s no Shiela Kuehl or anything, but overall a solid legislator. Which is why I’m surprised that we’re seeing AB 2800, a bill which would allow insurance companies to use "technological means" to track your driving patterns.
A bit of background here: California law suggests, even highly recommends, that auto insurers give a discount for lower
mileage driving. Much of the regulation comes from Prop 103, a initiative sponsored by the group now calling itself Consumer Watchdog.
The idea of reducing rates for mileage is a pretty good one for both the environment and the consumer. The problem isn’t with that, it’s with a provision to allow technological means for "insurance verification." This basically means a little black box that will watch your driving, and then report back to your insurer.
Progressive Insurance does this in several other states, but it is not legal right now here in California. The insurance companies want these in your car, it would be a boon to their business, really. It would make the process of setting
rates rather simple. They allege that these little boxes will only track mileage, despite the fact that they have broader uses elsewhere.
At any rate, if they want to check mileage they can do so with a simple device: it’s called an
odometer and it’s already installed in every car. California law allows verification through the odometer already.
Richard Holober, former candidate (and Calitics endorsee) for AD-19, has a different take, and views the industry’s whining in a different light: "I think there’s always sort of a credibility gap between the industry’s claims and its actual performance," said Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California.
Opponents contend the legislation is a thinly veiled push toward allowing insurance companies to require use of satellite technology – known as GPS – that can track not only how far you drive, but where and how aggressively.
"That’s a huge invasion of privacy," Holober said. "It’s nobody’s business."(SacBee 6/30/08)
These little boxes are eminently hackable, certainly no less hackable than odometers. Whatever is gained in verification, is lost when the little box sends our driving patterns, where we go, how we get there, and what time we go there, off to the insurance companies.
Sure, this law claims to focus only on mileage verification, but does anybody really think that the insurance companies are going to stop there when the technology is out there to get so much more data? It’s a risk unworthy of California’s legacy of privacy.
Give discounts for mileage, but let’s do it without sacrificing our privacy